Afghanistan, February 2013

I was busy at work at the beginning of the month, when I normally do this post, and when I came up for air I forgot to go back and fill in. I was going to just wait until the start of next month, but then I realized there was an important anniversary this month, so it seemed best to time the post with that.

Afghanistan February 2013

February was an even better month than January, with only one coalition military death. Unfortunately, the count for March is already up to 12 as I write this, so the streak of single digits will end at two.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. I started this series of posts several years ago to mark the cost in US and coalition lives of that horrible mistake.1 I began to include Afghanistan (and all of Operation Enduring Freedom) when it became clear that we were going to compound the Iraq mistake by trying for a do-over in the country and the war we abandoned in 2003.

I’m not sure why something that seemed obvious to me—that even though leaving Afghanistan for Iraq was an error, that error couldn’t be corrected by re-escalating (how easy it is to revert to a Vietnam-era vocabulary) in Afghanistan six years later—wasn’t obvious to Barack Obama, his advisors, and the Pentagon. But it wasn’t, and the original mistake of Iraq has mutated into our current situation.

James Fallows at the Atlantic has been running an excellent series of posts on the invasion of Iraq, and the lessons we as a country have managed not to learn from it. He, following the arguments of Andrew Bacevich, lays much of the blame on Paul Wolfowitz, who put an intellectual veneer over a collection of lies and wishful thinking. I understand this point of view, but I don’t agree with it. I think most of the blame should go to Colin Powell.

It was Powell who had the trust of the American people; Powell whose doctrine said that America shouldn’t get into wars unless our vital national interests were at stake; Powell who as Secretary of State could have argued forcefully against a war that didn’t meet the criteria he himself had laid out; and, finally, Powell who went before the United Nations and traded on his reputation to put forward a deceitful case for the invasion. I watched his presentation with an open mind, but when I heard him bring out the already-discredited aluminum tubes “proof” of Iraqi nuclear weapons, my mind closed shut. If you have the goods, you don’t need to lie.

Powell’s reputation was damaged by this disgraceful performance, but not as much as it should have been. He could have gone down in history as a latter day George Marshall, but he threw that away to carry water for lesser men like Cheney and Bush. I don’t believe that his opposition could have stopped the war—there was too much desire for it as our fears and anger over September 11th were corrupted and twisted—but he didn’t even try. And he let his country down in the process.


  1. No, I don’t think the lives of others aren’t worth counting, but those figures have always been estimates, and disputed estimates, at that. Also, my dispute has been with the policy of the US and her allies, and it’s US and coalition lives that have been the cost of that policy. 


4 Responses to “Afghanistan, February 2013”

  1. Dave C. says:

    In 2005, I bought an album because it had Orbital and Aphex Twin on it (I was on an electronic music kick).

    The album was called “The Fire This Time” (http://www.amazon.ca/Fire-This-Time-Various/dp/B00008J2R7/), a two disk set with a very big white “Made in the UK” sticker on it.

    Listening to the first album, I quickly realized I had stumbled onto something completely different: it was electronic music, but the music was used to offset the audio documentary. Disk 2 was just the music, but I found myself listening to disk 1 a few times before moving away from it.

    It was eye opening.

    I’m not American (Canadian actually), and I still find it hard to believe that this has continued in the middle-east for that long.

    I’m sure someone has a very good reason, but I don’t see it.

  2. Sam says:

    Been a lurker and fan for awhile now, Dr. Drang., and so apologize that my first comment is to take issue with something you wrote, rather than to unreservedly praise it.

    "Today marks the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. I started this series of posts several years ago to mark the cost in US and coalition lives of that horrible mistake.1"
    
    "1.  No, I don’t think the lives of others aren’t worth counting, but those figures have always been estimates, and disputed estimates, at that. Also, my dispute has been with the policy of the US and her allies, and it’s US and coalition lives that have been the cost of that policy."
    

    While I appreciate the valuable work you do in reminding us of (some of) the costs of the U.S.’s interventionist misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think the second sentence of your footnote above is probably better removed than included. It’s demonstrably untrue, despite disagreements about the exact numbers of non-US and coalition deaths, that those deaths are not a direct result of “the policy of the US and her allies”, and therefore that those deaths are not a part of “the cost of that policy”.

    Thanks for considering my thoughts, and please do keep up the good work.

    Sam.

    P.S. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that my comment has nothing whatsoever to do with your choice to document only US and coalition deaths in these posts.

  3. Dr. Drang says:

    You’re misreading me, Sam. Of course the other deaths are the result of our policy; I never said otherwise. As for cost, the other deaths are not a cost paid by the coalition, .

  4. Sam says:

    Thanks for the response, Dr. Drang.

    Just wanted to clarify that based on what I (think I) have been able to glean about the person from the writings, I didn’t really believe you held the opinion that the other deaths are not a result of US and coalition policy; it was solely the inclusion/construction of that one sentence with which I had my quarrel. My apologies if I am misreading it, though I still have to admit if I didn’t have a sense of the author, or hadn’t had him explain his intended meaning to me, I would still have a hard time interpreting it differently than I’ve suggested.

    Anyhoo, I’m probably being a pain by this point, so I’ll sign off and say thanks again for ANIAT.